For the first time since 1990, there will be no mass June 4 vigil at Victoria Park to commemorate the military crackdown on student-led democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square in 1989 that left hundreds, perhaps thousands, dead. Police have refused permission to ensure compliance with coronavirus restrictions on social gatherings. But what happens still matters. There may be no headcount on the 31st anniversary to compare with past observances as a measure of the relevance of the tragedy to Hong Kong’s identity and a whole new generation. But the organisers have vowed to adapt to the times. They have invited people to join them in the park in groups of no more than the maximum of eight permitted. They are also asking people to light candles across Hong Kong, with plans to set up 100 street support booths. It remains to be seen whether these tactics are seen to safeguard public health and how police deal with them. A lot depends on the outcome, given apprehension about the impact the national security law, which Beijing is to impose on Hong Kong, may have on our freedoms and the future of “one country, two systems”. Hongkongers cherish freedoms such as the right to protest. There is no better example of peaceful exercise of this right than the annual candlelight vigil. Participants may sing songs or shout slogans calling for the reversal of Beijing’s official verdict that the bloody crackdown was justified and for an end to one-party rule on the mainland. But it has never been marked by social unrest or the chaos associated with recent anti-government protests. So there is no justification not to allow the scaled-down vigil on public order grounds. That said, these are sensitive times. Police have shown a willingness to aggressively pre-empt the possibility of disorder. It is important that the organisers strive to avoid provocation. Amid debate over recent years about the operation of one country, two systems, the vigil has been seen as practical evidence that the concept can work. We trust this June 4 will be no exception. It is to be hoped that even after the security law is passed, peaceful rallies will remain among the freedoms that set Hong Kong apart. The vigil is in the nature of a test case. It is therefore paramount people participate in a way that upholds its peaceful traditions, and that this is reflected in the approach adopted by police. Tiananmen vigil in Hong Kong banned, but spirit of commemoration shines on This smaller event marks the 23rd anniversary of the first legal commemoration on Chinese territory of the June 4 crackdown after China’s resumption of sovereignty over Hong Kong in July 1997. It is taboo on the mainland. That it remains identified with Hong Kong around the world reflects safeguards for our freedoms in the Basic Law and respect for the rule of law under an independent judiciary. It is essential that nothing is allowed to sully that reputation.